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Bits & Pieces


Updated: 2017-06-30T16:58:12.335+07:00


Kleiner’s Laws



I found this piece on an interesting blog

Regarding Eugene Kleiner, one of the traitorous 8, the founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, an investor in Intel and one of the main founders of KPCB, a top VC firm. Basically this dude is the grand daddy of Silicon Valley.

He says some stuff that's worth contemplating for entrepreneurs.

Kleiner’s Laws

* Make sure the dog wants to eat the dog food. No matter how ground-breaking a new technology, how large a potential market, make certain customers actually want it.
* Build one business at a time. Most business plans are overly ambitious. Concentrate on being successful in one endeavor first.
* The time to take the tarts is when they’re being passed. If an environment is right for funding, go for it. Eugene, more than anyone, knew that venture capital goes in cycles.
* The problem with most companies is they don’t know what business they’re in.
* Even turkeys can fly in a high wind. In times of strong economies, even bad companies can look good.
* It’s easier to get a piece of an existing market than to create a new one.
* It’s difficult to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.
* After learning some of the tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade. This reflected some of Eugene’s own humility; he recognized that many venture capitalists thought they were experts when they had just a bit of knowledge.
* Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.
* Invest in people, not just products. Eugene always respected founding entrepreneurs. He wanted to build companies with them not just with their ideas.

And, two others – frequently quoted:

* “There is a time when panic is the appropriate response.”
* “What tips me off that a business will be successful is that they have a narrow focus of what they want to do, and they plan a sufficient amount of effort and money to do it. Focus is essential.”

Bored of this Blogger blog


Howdy folks .. Getting bored of this layout, I feel left behind not jumping on the Wordpress bandwagon. So expect a face lift real soon.

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell



Outliers is a fantastic read. If Gladwell started out this book with the intention of changing one's perspective on how success is achieved, he has without a doubt succeeded.

He breaks down success with the 10,000 hour rule and the legacy of culture, all of which make perfect sense. If you have not realized yet, Gladwell has the uncanny ability to point out things that we overlook. He does it flawlessly here with stories of successful software billionaires, lawyers and doctors.

An interesting bit in this book is as personal as it gets, Gladwell's breakdown of his mother as an outlier. A set of perfectly timed events centuries ago that result in her ending up in Canada.

The word Interesting does not do justice to this book. I highly recommend it.

Activate Simpati 3G dan GPRS for internet access with 3G modem


To activate 3G or GPRS for your Telkomsel Simpati sim card so you can use it on a 3G modem, do the following:

2 step process

'GPRS 62101118253*****' send to 6616 without quotes. The 16 digit number is written on your SIM Card. Registration takes 48 hours, but took 5 mins for me. Telkomsel will send you a confirmation sms.

'3G' TO 3636

Cost Rp. 5/kb, not cheap or as my medan friends would say 'Mahal Kali.'

Settings for modem:
apn telkomsel
username: wap
password: wap123
access number: *99#

Bring it on..


Greetings 2010, earlier this year people smsd and emailed wonderful greetings. They said this year would be better than the last. After 2009, anything would have been better. So far it feels the same. The psychics now say its going to be just as bad as last year. Haha, what do they know right..

I say bring it on, we're ready for anything... except for another natural disaster.

The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine


By Robert Capps08.24.09Photo: Kenji AokiWHEN GOOD ENUF IS GREATEntire markets have been transformed by products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and convenience.— Erin BibaPhoneNet-based calls can be laggy, and they sometimes drop out in mid conversation. But they can also be free—even international calls—and it's easy to turn conversations into shareable MP3s. Skype now accounts for 8 percent of international calling minutes, and the service added nearly 38 million users in the second quarter of 2009, a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.BooksAmazon's Kindle can't display complex graphics, and paper still has much higher resolution. But the device does store hundreds of titles in a slim package, ensuring that you always have access to whichever Philip K. Dick tale you're in the mood for. The Kindle is expected to generate $310 million in revenue by the end of 2009. Barron's estimates that annual sales could reach $2 billion by 2012.TelevisonIts content may not be hi-def, and you're stuck watching it on a computer screen, but Hulu lets you catch recent television shows and popular movies whenever and wherever you want. For free. No wonder it has 40 million unique viewers—up from just 7 million a year ago.In 2001, Jonathan Kaplan and Ariel Braunstein noticed a quirk in the camera market. All the growth was in expensive digital cameras, but the best-selling units by far were still cheap, disposable film models. That year, a whopping 181 million disposables were sold in the US, compared with around 7 million digital cameras. Spotting an opportunity, Kaplan and Braunstein formed a company called Pure Digital Technologies and set out to see if they could mix the rich chocolate of digital imaging with the mass-market peanut butter of throwaway point-and-shoots. They called their brainchild the Single Use Digital Camera and cobranded it with retailers, mostly pharmacies like CVS.The concept looked promising, but it turned out to be fatally flawed. The problem, says Simon Fleming-Wood, a member of Pure Digital's founding management team, was that the business model relied on people returning the $20 cameras to stores in order to get prints and a CD. The retailers were supposed to send the used boxes back to Pure Digital, which would refurbish them, reducing the number of new units it had to manufacture. But customers didn't return the cameras fast enough. Some were content to view their pictures on the tiny 1.4-inch LCD and held on to the device, thinking they'd take it in later to get prints. Others figured out how to hack the camera so it would download to a PC, eliminating the need to return the thing altogether.Brisk sales combined with a lack of speedy returns destroyed the company's thin margins, and the camera failed. But the experience taught Kaplan and Braunstein a lesson: Customers would sacrifice lots of quality for a cheap, convenient device. To keep the price down, Pure Digital had made significant trade-offs. It used inexpensive lenses and other components and limited the number of image-processing chips. The pictures were OK but not great. Yet Pure Digital sold 3 million cameras anyway.Kaplan and Braunstein also learned something important about camera retailing in general. The market had long been split into two main segments: point-and-shoots (including disposables) and single-lens reflex cameras, which use interchangeable lenses and other high-end accessories. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of cameras sold then—as now—were the handy point-and-shoots; SLRs tended to attract only serious hobbyists and professionals.Oddly, though, there was no point-and-shoot analogue in video cameras—and that's where the pair saw their next opportunity. Home videocams were almost without exception expensive, complicated devices loaded with features like image stabilization, night-vision mode, and onboard color correction. And even with t[...]

Apple’s Game Changer, Downloading No


By JENNA WORTHAMIAN LYNCH SMITH, a shaggy-haired ball of energy in his late 30s, beams as he ticks off some of the games that Freeverse, his little Brooklyn software company, has landed on the iPhone App Store’s coveted (and ever-changing) list of best-selling downloads: Moto Chaser, Flick Fishing, Flick Bowling and Skee-ball.Skee-ball, Mr. Smith says, took about two months to develop and deploy and then raked in $181,000 for Freeverse in one month. The company’s latest bid for App Store fame? A game featuring a Jane Austen character in a lacy dress who karate-chops her way through hordes of advancing zombies.“There’s never been anything like this experience for mobile software,” Mr. Smith says of the App Store boom. “This is the future of digital distribution for everything: software, games, entertainment, all kinds of content.”As the App Store evolves from a kitschy catalog of novelty applications into what analysts and aficionados describe as a platform that is rapidly transforming mobile computing and telephony, it is changing the goals and testing the patience of developers, bolstering sales of the Apple motherships the applications ride upon — the iPhone and iPod Touch — and causing Apple’s competitors to overhaul their product lines and business models. It even threatens to open chinks in Apple’s own corporate armor.Thanks in large part to the iPhone, introduced in 2007, and the App Store, which opened its doors last year, smartphones have become the Swiss Army knives of the digital age.They provide a staggering arsenal of functions and tools at the swipe of a finger: e-mail and text messaging, video and photography, maps and turn-by-turn navigation, media and books, music and games, mobile shopping, and even wireless keys that remotely unlock cars.“Apple changed the view of what you can do with that small phone in your back pocket,” says Katy Huberty, a Morgan Stanley analyst. “Applications make the smartphone trend a revolutionary trend — one we haven’t seen in consumer technology for many years.”Ms. Huberty likens the advent of the App Store and the iPhone to AOL’s pioneering role in driving broad-based consumer adoption of the Internet in the 1990s. She also draws comparisons to ways in which laptops have upended industry assumptions about consumer preferences and desktop computing. But, she notes, something even more profound may now be afoot.“The iPhone is something different. It’s changing our behavior,” she says. “The game that Apple is playing is to become the Microsoft of the smartphone market.”The popularity of Apple’s app model has reached a fever pitch. Tens of thousands of independent developers are clamoring to write programs for it, and the App Store’s virtual shelves are stocked with more than 100,000 applications. Apple recently said that consumers had downloaded more than two billion applications from its store.Major players like Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry), Palm (maker of the Pre), Google (maker of the Android mobile operating system) and Microsoft (maker of Windows Mobile) are taking note and scrambling to replicate the App Store frenzy.App fever has even prompted cities like New York and San Francisco to open reservoirs of city data to the public to spur software developers to create hyperlocal applications for computers and phones.One need not look further than the lobby of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., to see that the iPhone and applications that run on it are centerpieces of the company’s mobile strategy. Planted squarely in the lobby of the main office, at 1 Infinite Loop, is an impressive, 24-foot-wide array built out of 20 LED screens populated with 20,000 tiny, brightly colored icons.As Philip W. Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing at Apple, describes how the wall works — each time an application is purchased, the corresponding ic[...]

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 smashes industry records


November 27, 2009 | Tom Slater

The latest in a parade of hits, Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has sold an estimated $550 million in the first five days of its release, bringing the entire The Call of Duty series $3 billion in sales between its six titles.

Modern Warfare 2 officially smashed opening-day sales records with 4.7 million copies sold in its first day in the U.S. and U.K. alone. To put that in perspective, James Bond has been a franchise for 47 years and grossed just over $5 billion.

Activision isn’t the only company growing fat on Modern Warfare’s success. GameStop, an online gaming retailer, sold 2.5 million copies of MW2 within three days of its release. Not coincidentally, GameStop’s Q3 sales rose to $1.82 billion, up from $1.7 billion in Q2. Activision ended the day’s trading up 0.09 percent, closing at $11.57.

“If you consider the number of hours our audiences are engaged in playing Call of Duty games, it is likely to be one of the most viewed of all entertainment experiences in modern history,” says Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision.

MW2 includes over 40 types of weapon and presents the player with the option of participating in a civilian massacre — a controversial move that VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi examined in his review of the game. This scene has inspired some outcry: There were early reports that it was banned in Russia. In fact, the game was released there, but without the massacre scene. To help offset some of the outrage over the massacre concept, Activision has donated $1 million to veteran’s groups in the U.S.

MW2’s launch beat every previous-best first and five-day launch in the entertainment industry: box office, book releases and video games launches alike have been humbled by its sales. Previously, the five-day sales of Grand Theft Auto IV held the record at 6 million units and $500 million dollars. MW2 has been so successful, in fact, that a special edition of the game is being offered with full functioning night vision goggles. So far, no handgun edition has been announced.

Inside Google's Advertising Empire


Google's announced plans to buy display-ad company Teracent. Here's a look at how the purchase fits into Google's advertising empire and your online life.JR Raphael, PC WorldMonday, November 23, 2009 03:00 PM PSTGoogle's gobbling up another advertising company, the search giant has announced. Google will acquire Teracent, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in "intelligent display advertising." Yep -- that means more online ads customized specifically for your visit.Teracent, of course, is far from Google's first foray into the online advertising world; as most people who use the Web can't help but know, Google-served ads are practically everywhere these days. Here's an overall look at Google's ad-related acquisitions and how they play into your online life.Teracent: Google's Display-Advertising AcquisitionReading the way Google describes Teracent, it's not hard to understand how it'll fit into the company's advertising ecosystem."Teracent's technology can pick and choose from literally thousands of creative elements of a display ad in real-time -- tweaking images, products, messages or colors," Google's official blog posting explains. "These elements can be optimized depending on factors like geographic location, language, the content of the website, the time of day or the past performance of different ads."Teracent's technology is expected to become available to advertisers using Google's Content Network and DoubleClick program. Yahoo, incidentally, announced an advertising partnership with Teracent earlier this year. There's no word yet how the Google acquisition could affect that relationship (though "badly" might be a logical guess).Google's Past Ad AcquisitionsThe Teracent acquisition comes just two weeks after Google announced it was buying mobile advertising provider AdMob -- a deal worth a whopping $750 million in stock. AdMob focuses primarily on display ads and mobile application ads. Translation: Get ready to see a whole lot of Google-powered advertising on your mobile phone.Prior to AdMob, Google's ad-related acquisitions had revolved around the Web and even the airwaves. (Some say the G-gang is also aiming for in-brain advertising, though I'm pretty sure those rumors are unfounded.) So what are some of the other noteworthy purchases, and how have they affected you? Time for the quick tour:• DoubleClick: Bought for $3.1 billion in 2007, DoubleClick delivered a massive network of advertisers into Google's already-strong advertising system. You can thank DoubleClick for all the Google-run display and rich-media ads around the Net -- prior to DC's entry, those had been a relatively small part of Google's advertising empire.• AdScape: In-game advertising firm AdScape entered the Google domain in March of 2007, drawing speculation of massive Google-led virtual worlds on the way. To its credit, Google did launch Lively last summer. It took only a matter of months, however, for the service -- which, by some accounts, had turned largely into a virtual teenage groping ground -- to get shut down.What's AdScape doing now? Good question. It's somewhere in Google's advertising empire, just presumably in a quiet corner. One day, though, the big G's targeted advertising may pop up in a game near you.• dMarc Broadcasting: Even further down on the list of not-quite-so-successful ad attempts is dMarc Broadcasting, bought by Google in January of 2006. The company was meant to help Google get into radio advertising, and it did -- for a short while.Earlier this year, the Google radio ad idea died, effectively sending dMarc to the gDump and Google ads off of America's airwaves.• Applied Semantics: Ah, the one that started it all. Google grabbed Applied Semantics in 2003, marking the beginning of the AdSense program and Google's status as a serious advertising player. You know all those little text ads tha[...]

Colum McCann wins major US fiction prize



Thursday, 19 November 2009

Colum McCann's September 11 novel Let the Great World Spin picked up the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction, one of the most significant literary awards in the US next to the Pulitzer Prize. Winners were announced November 18 during a ceremony in New York City.

National Book Awards are given in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature. Other 2009 awards went to T.J. Stiles's The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbuilt for nonfiction; Keith Waldrop's Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy for poetry; and Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice for young people's literature. Hoose was joined onstage by the early civil rights heroine who inspired his novel.

The Best of the National Book Awards, a special prize celebrating the awards' 60th anniversary, was based on public online voting after finalists were selected. Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories won; finalists included books by John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon and Eudora Welty.

Dave Eggers won the 2009 Literarian Award, recognizing "outstanding literary service to the American literary community." His 2006 work What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, won France's Medicis literary prize in November; his other novels include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. An author, editor, journalist, publisher, screenwriter, Eggers is co-founder of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth, and of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house.

Author and activist Gore Vidal accepted a lifetime achievement award honoring Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The National Book Awards have recognized excellence in American literature since 1950. The winners, who are selected by a jury, each receive a $10,000 cash prize and a bronze sculpture; finalists each receive $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel jury.



When Oscar De La Hoya hung up his gloves for good this past February, it prompted the immediate question to fight fans - "Who will be the next Oscar?" The answer may be not as obvious as it seems.November 2, 2009 - by Dave LarzelereFor nearly a decade, Oscar De La Hoya ruled the fight game as its marquee pay-per-view attraction. Every time he fought, it was an event guaranteed to generate huge amounts of cash and crossover interest. After Mike Tyson exited the stage, De La Hoya was the only fighter left standing who could regularly put boxing on the front of America's sports pages.When Oscar announced in February that he was hanging up the gloves, the news provoked considerable angst among dedicated sweet scientists. They envisioned a period of waning interest and malaise similar to what the NBA suffered in the post-Jordan years.Eight months after De La Hoya's farewell, the battle lines of the post-Oscar era have begun to take shape. Two fighters stand poised to inherit the 'crown, both with such compelling (and contrasting) claims on the throne that they may as well represent the houses of Lancaster and York. But as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather jostle to become the sport's new reigning king, there's reason to suspect that the next generation of boxing will not be dominated by a single, over-arching superstar, but rather by a talented group of worthy contenders all vying for top-dog status.To hear Floyd Mayweather tell it, however, those contenders are all pretenders. "I'm the cash cow," he says regularly. "All roads lead to me."Mayweather certainly made a strong case for that claim in his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in September. In a virtuosic performance, he showed not a trace of ring rust after a near two-year absence from boxing, pitching a virtual shutout on the scorecards against a man deemed among the top two or three pound-for-pound fighters in the world.At the box office, the event was a blockbuster success, doing a million pay-per-view buys and confounding the predictions of many boxing insiders who thought it would struggle with sales due to the pronounced size difference between the welterweight Mayweather and the lightweight Marquez."Floyd proved himself as the A-side of an event-type fight," says HBO boxing analyst, Max Kellerman. "He proved that he is now an event-maker like Oscar was."The fight was a mismatch, as it turned out, but fans tuned in anyway. For Floyd Mayweather, the star of the show, that success was almost as satisfying as his victory in the ring. "Floyd proved himself as the A-side of an event-type fight," says HBO boxing analyst, Max Kellerman. "He proved that he is now an event-maker like Oscar was."Mayweather, however, is not the only man to anchor a major boxing event in 2009. In May, Manny Pacquiao generated rave reviews and media buzz when he knocked out Ricky Hatton in front of a packed house at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight did 850,000 pay-per-view buys, announcing to everyone that the Filipino sensation known as Pac Man had officially crossed over to mainstream stardom in the U.S.Most expect Pacquaio's November 14th bout with Miguel Cotto to equal or exceed the Hatton numbers, and though Cotto is acknowledged as perhaps the toughest opponent of his career, Pacquiao remains a heavy favorite to win the fight. If Pacquaio does get past Cotto, and the event matches the PPV success of Mayweather/Marquez, it sets up a natural super-fight for 2010 in which the winner could immediately inherit De La Hoya's place atop the sport. A Pacquiao-Mayweather fight could be the best thing to happen to boxing in a long time, even better than the attention-grabbing mega-fights of the De La Hoya era."Sports are at their strongest," says Kellerman, "when their No. 1 box office attraction is also their best participa[...]



In the lead-up to their fight, many wondered whether Manny Pacquiao could handle the power of a hard-punching welterweight like Miguel Cotto. Tonight Pacquiao answered with a resounding yes, taking Cotto's best shots and breaking down the Puerto Rican with speed and precision to take his welterweight crown.November 14, 2009 - by Dave Larzelere | Photos by Will Hart & Ed MulhollandWith utter fighting mastery, Manny Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto with a TKO in the 12th round at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight, taking Cotto's WBO welterweight belt in a sensational performance that left no question that Pacquiao is not only one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of his generation, but one of the best of all time.It's a record seventh world title for Pacquiao in seven different weight classes, proving himself perhaps a more complete and explosive fighting machine as a welterweight than he was when he won his first world title eleven years ago as a 112-pound flyweight. For Cotto, meanwhile, though it was only the second loss of his great career, it was a nevertheless a devastating evening, as he found himself on the receiving end of a thorough beating that had him retreating so dramatically at the end of the bout that boos were heard throughout the sold-out arena.It was a much different story early in the fight, however, when a confident Cotto went on the attack. In the first four rounds, it appeared the showdown was going to follow the script set out for it by many boxing pundits as a memorable war between Cotto's considerable power and Pacquiao's electrifying speed. Cotto's well-timed jab seemed to neutralize Pacquiao'shandspeed in the first frame, and using his own underrated speed, he was able to land heavier shots onPacquiao than the Filipino sensation has absorbed in recent memory.In fact, tonight's major story may be just how well Pacquiao took those shots. Going into the fight, the public knew how fast Pacquiao was, and also knew that he had knockdown power in both hands. But one thing the world learned tonight about Manny Pacquiao was that he can walk through gigantic punches from a bruising welterweight on the order of Cotto, a man long known for breaking down his opponents with the ferocity of his attack.Despite Cotto's landing head-snapping jabs and hooks, the speed differential started to show in Pacquiao's favor in the second round, and in the third, he drew first blood with a sneaky-fast right hand that sent Cotto stumbling and then bracing himself with a glove on the canvas - the first knockdown of the fight. The second, a much more convincing knockdown, came in the very next round, as Pacquiao, having languished on the ropes for much of the round, exploded with a roundhouse left that caught Cotto lunging and sent him sprawling to the canvas, clearly injured.It's arguable that Cotto never quite recovered from that knockdown. He fought a cagey fifth round and may have tipped the frame in his favor, but after that it was all Pacquiao in a frightening onslaught. By the seventh, Cotto had begun to circle the ring relentlessly to stay out Pacquiao wheelhouse, and by the ninth, swollen and bloodied, he was merely in survival mode, desperately trying to end the fight on his feet.It was not to be, as referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to stop the carnage at 55 seconds of the final round. Now a seven-time champion, all that seems left for Pacquiao to accomplish in boxing is to solidify his claim on being the world's top pound-for-pound fighter by facing the other current aspirant to the pound-for-pound throne, Floyd Mayweather. After tonight's performance, and after Mayweather's commanding victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in September, the way is cleared for a Pacquiao/Mayweather extravaganza that, if it happens, is s[...]

Inside the App Economy


Beyond the goofy games is a world of useful programs that's making fortunes and changing the rules of businessBy Douglas MacMillan, Peter Burrows and Spencer E. AnteIt's easy to shrug off the kooky world of apps. The bite-size software programs people load onto their mobile phones or tap into on the Web seem mostly to be silly games and pointless novelties. But look past the beer-drinking apps and flatulence programs and you'll see something significant taking shape: a bustling app economy that's creating new fortunes for entrepreneurs and changing the way business gets done.It's happening with dizzying speed. Just two years ago, almost none of this existed. Apple's (AAPL) App Store, the most popular destination for mobile-phone programs, was launched last summer. Now there are more than a dozen rival stores, and at least 100,000 apps have been created. Some startups that staked their claim in the app economy have become large, lucrative businesses in just a few months. Two-year-old Zynga, which makes popular game apps, is already profitable, with more than $100 million in revenues. By comparison, Google (GOOG) didn't start making money until its third year—and still had less revenue.There are serious business tools among the thousands of new apps.'s (CRM) programs let executives manage customer relationships from an iPhone or BlackBerry. Oracle (ORCL) apps let managers check inventory or get a snapshot of a business unit's performance. The computing that people used to do at their desks increasingly can be done on devices they can carry anywhere.Early DaysApps will help determine technology's next big winners. The success of Apple's iPhone is due in large part to the fact that the company can offer customers more software choices than any rival. Research In Motion (RIMM), maker of the business-oriented BlackBerry, has scrambled to catch up and has made progress. But established giants such as Nokia (NOK) and Microsoft (MSFT) are struggling to get traction, raising questions about their prospects.These are such early days, no one knows exactly how big the app economy is. Companies make money from selling apps, from ads within apps, and from selling digital goods used in apps. Add it up and analysts figure it's at least a $1 billion market today, headed for $4 billion by 2012. Not bad for a brand-new business.True, much of the money these days comes from goofy games. One popular app is I Am T-Pain, named after the performer, born Faheem Najm. Fans can download software to their iPhone and mimic his robot-like voice. But it's time to heed the opportunities in this fast-evolving world. The $2.99 T-Pain app has put its creator, a year-old startup called Smule, on track to pull in $3 million this year. "Apps have moved into the mainstream. The world's changed," says Jeff Smith, Smule's chief executive.ZYNGA'S ZINGRevenues are soaring on the success of 'Social Game' Apps like FarmVilleEarly this year, Mark Pincus, founder of the tech startup Zynga, huddled with staffers in his company's San Francisco offices to brainstorm new product ideas. Zynga develops game apps that can be played on social networks such as Facebook or mobile phones like the iPhone, and Pincus needed a follow-up to a popular poker app. One employee suggested a farming game, where players could grow digital crops and sell them to make virtual money. Pincus liked the idea and gave it the green light. Four months after its launch, FarmVille is one of the most popular apps in the world, with 60 million people playing it in the last month. "It just exploded," says Pincus.Such is the nature of business in the burgeoning app economy. Success—and a flood of money—can arrive practically overnight. Zynga doesn't charge users[...]

Zynga CEO: Playfish Helps EA 'Catch Up'


Posted by: Douglas MacMillan on November 10Mark Pincus has become the poster boy for the booming business of social online games. His company, Zynga, brings in more than $100 million in annual revenues, and owns the most popular Facebook app of the year, FarmVille. Zynga is even considered by analysts and observers to be a candidate to go public next year.So what does Pincus make of video game stalwart Electronic Arts recently scooping up Playfish, one of Zynga’s top rivals, in a deal that’s worth up to $400 million? He says EA paid a justifiably high price to enter the social gaming space. “The founders got a really good cashout, and EA got to catch up to a business that they had kind of missed the start of,” Pincus says.Zynga may benefit indirectly from the marriage, since EA marketing savvy could bring more attention to the social gaming space, he says.Pincus isn’t worried about Playfish’s newfound access to more capital making it a stronger competitor. But he admits that EA’s popular game brands including The Sims and Madden have a lot of potential in the social gaming space. “There’s a good chance for them to try to leverage EA’s major brands and take Sims and other [games] into the market,” he says. This could be a “risk” for Zynga and others that don’t have a stable of recognizable game franchises to draw on, Pincus says.EA never talked to Zynga about the possibility of an acquisition, according to Pincus. "They apparently didn’t want to buy us," he says. "They might have realized that we weren’t interested in being acquired." Or, EA might have assumed the price tag would have been too high to bother. If Playfish was worth $400 million with 60 million active users, analysts estimate Zynga, with 186 million users, may already be worth over $1 billion.Pincus shrugs off speculation that Zynga is coming due for an IPO. "Why would we sell it or why would we take it public if neither of those options accelerated our business plan?" he asks. Even though a public offering would give Zynga cash to make deals of its own, Pincus thinks the constant scrutiny of Wall Street would threaten the company's innovative, entrepreneurial structure. That echoes the sentiment he conveyed last month, when I interviewed him for a BusinessWeek cover story on The App Economy.Recently, Zynga has been brought to task for promotional offers made inside its games, offers which account for less than 20% of revenues. As the blog TechCrunch reported Oct. 31, many of these offers reward users for signing up for unwanted contracts and subscriptions. Since then, Pincus has pledged to put each offer in Zynga games under more scrutiny, and remove those that appear to be "misleading," he says. "We have to try to police them."Policing is hardly what the company was doing before. Pincus claims he personally never knew about the more seedy offers in FarmVille and other games, since he spends most of his time building products, not revenues. "We have one person who deals with offer networks and it’s not even a full time job," he admits. Still, the entrepreneur adds that his ignorance of the matter is "not an excuse."He’s certainly paying attention now. And with EA’s marketing muscle behind Playfish, he’ll need to keep closer tabs on the competition too.[...]

Apple Bathes in Profit


Market share is probably the easiest and most often used point of comparison between competing products. It makes sense: If something has a large share of the market, it’s probably doing well. But that doesn’t always mean that it’s doing better than something with less market share, especially from a business perspective.I bring this up because today brought some very interesting numbers from the research firm, Strategy Analytics. According to them, Apple has surpassed Nokia as the most profitable phone maker in the world. I’ll throw some numbers at you in a second to show why this is really incredible, but the key takeaway is that this is why, at the end of the day, Apple wins.While the press and rivals obsess over market share, Apple quietly comes in and makes an insane amount of money. It’s the same in the computer industry. Small market share, huge amount of money. The most important thing for all of these are companies is the bottom line. Apple wins that battle.According to the report, Apple made $1.6 billion in operating profit off of the iPhone in Q3. Nokia, meanwhile, made $1.1 billion. Let’s put this in perspective. Recent numbers suggest Nokia controls roughly 35% of the worldwide handset market. Apple? About 2.5%.Not 25%. Two point five percent.Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, just about everyone has been clamoring for more variety in Apple’s offering. People wanted iPhone minis, they wanted CDMA iPhones, etc. But Apple stuck to its guns and has basically sold one phone, which it could manufacture efficiently, when rivals like Nokia are busy peddling dozens. Sure, there are a few variations on the iPhone (included memory, and now the 3G/3GS), but basically, it’s one phone that is pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars of more profit than the market leader.To people who follow Apple closely, this should be absolutely no surprise. It’s the same thingit does in the computer industry. Despite having a much smaller market share than its rivals, it makes more money than most of them. The key, of course, is that Apple maintains its high profit margins, while the competitors shuffle to battle each other for market share.That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t care about market share for either its computers or the iPhone, it undoubtedly does. But it’s a secondary goal to running a successful business. A business which is now absolutely thriving in an awful worldwide economic environment.If Apple wanted to boost its computer market share, it could do so in a heartbeat simply by slashing into its margins and chopping hundreds of dollars off its machines. That’s why those “I’m A PC” shopping commercials this summer were humorous. They’re attacking Apple for not competing in segments (low cost PCs) that it has absolutely no desire to compete in. Would those commercials be effective if Apple chose to sell a $500 MacBook? No, becauseLauren probably would have bought it (remember, her first stop was the Apple store).Most consumers obviously shouldn’t like the idea that a company is purposely charging more for its product to keep its margins high. But Apple has a winning proposition for that because it builds machines of such high quality that to many users itseems like they should cost more than they actually do. Or as Apple COO Tim Cook put it in a earnings call over the summer, “Our goal is not to build the most computers. It’s to build the best.” When you do that, apparently you can keep your margins high and in turn, make insane profits.The iPhone is a bit different because Apple has a partner that it has convinced to pay it an insane amount of money for each device sold and then subsidize the co[...]

Starbucks: Howard Schultz vs. Howard Schultz


Starbucks' iconoclastic founder has gone through a reeducation in the rigors of running a more typical company. That doesn't mean he has to like itBy Susan BerfieldYou can get a sense of what's important to someone by the stories he tells. At Starbucks (SBUX), a company diminished in ways both tangible and ineffable, Howard Schultz is telling a story about milk. Starbucks uses a lot of the stuff. As part of Schultz's efforts to improve the quality of the millions of lattes and cappuccinos Starbucks serves, he forbade what had become the common practice of resteaming milk. That meant the baristas were pouring millions of dollars of leftover milk down the drain. As store managers for the first time began thinking about how to operate more efficiently, an idea emerged. It was simple, obvious, and made everyone wonder why no one had thought of it before: They could put etched lines in the steaming pitchers so that the baristas would know exactly how much milk to use for each size drink. Before, they just guessed. "The celebration of that line in the halls of Starbucks has become a metaphor," says Schultz. "How many other lines can we find? We've found a lot because no one was ever looking. The people who have found those lines have become part of the folklore."Can you think of many other executives who would turn something so prosaic into folklore? Or who would have left something so basic to chance? But we're talking about Howard Schultz, and about Starbucks, which for most of its existence was fast-growing and free-flowing, a place where the experience was everything. A place where the boss led by instinct, where authenticity was what counted. Schultz liked to say that Starbucks had taken the road less traveled.That vision, perhaps inevitably, has collided with the exigencies of the real world. The $4 latte has become an unaffordable luxury, and Starbucks is competing with McDonald's (MCD) and Dunkin' Donuts, two chains more interested in selling lots of coffee than in being a part of people's lives. Even so, Schultz, for a time, seemed strangely unconcerned that the ground was shifting. When he reclaimed the responsibilities of chief executive in January 2008, he announced that Starbucks had lost its way: It had become the kind of soulless corporation he detested. He promised to take the company back to its roots, to make Starbucks loved again.The Great Recession has since forced Schultz to do something even more drastic. He has had to acknowledge, however grudgingly, that the company needed to change almost everything about how it operates. Starbucks had to become more ordinary. The first orders of business: Cut costs by at least $500 million, shutter 800 stores in the U.S., lay off more than 4,000 employees. And also: Conduct more customer research, offer discounts, advertise. All very common, unremarkable ways of doing business. All new and uncomfortable to Schultz. "He was always so tantalized by out-of-the-box thinking," says John Moore, a former Starbucks marketing executive. "But sometimes it's the box that needs to be fixed."Spend enough time with Schultz, and one thing becomes clear. Despite the recent reversals and reckonings, he still wants it all. Starbucks must be powerful and benevolent, respected and passionate, ubiquitous and imaginative. There is no point telling him that no big corporation, certainly not one with some 16,000 stores in 50 countries, has ever found such a balance. He simply doesn't buy it. Yet he concedes the strain of trying to stay true to his shareholders and his original vision. "I've had to change my own mentality and thinking," he says. "It's always a fragile balance between creati[...]

Karim Rashid, Designer & Author of 'KarimSpace' (INTERVIEW)


Karim Rashid is a renowned designer who has also written a book called ‘Karim Space,’ a popular and personal guide to living.Karim Rashid has been the recipient of multiple awards, the latest from Veuve Clicquot Globalight called the Popai Gold Medal for Technics and Innovation. Along with Veuve Clicquot, Karim has also worked for Swarovski, LaCie and Samsung, among many others.10 Questions With Karim Rashid1. How did you get involved in design and what motivates you to continue?My career really started in 1993 (when I was 33) when I moved to New York City. In my early 20s I spent two years in Italy doing post-graduate classes and working in Milano in a design office. That experience made me realize that I wanted to design poetic artistic yet functional everyday objects for everyday life.But on my return to Canada from 1985 to 1991, I worked in a design office in Toronto for six years doing really ‘hardcore’ industrial design projects like machinery, medical equipment, power tools, laser measuring devices, snow shovels, train interiors, and mailboxes for Canada Post. I was disillusioned about the profession and felt that Italy was about the only country that understood the necessity of beauty in industrial design. The North American companies were disrespectful of design. Design was not embraced as it is today. I went into being a full-time academic and stopped designing for two years because I was so fed up with industrial design. I was full-time in Toronto at OCAD, then the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).I was going to quit the profession in 1992 when I was fired from RISD. I was told I was teaching ‘philosophy and theory,’ not design. Then I found myself in New York City penniless and started drawing objects romanticizing about the beautiful world I always wanted to shape.When I started my office, after approaching about 100 companies from La-Z-Boy to Gillette, I only got one client. I designed a collection of tabletop objects for Nambe in Santa Fe that became very successful. They sold about $3,000,000 a year and entered permanent museum collections.This relationship gave me the confidence that I could really contribute some meaningful and successful objects into the world. I designed the OH chair and Garbo Waste can for Umbra (1995). They continue to sell millions and proved to me that Americans want design but at an affordable price.I then went on to design cosmetic packaging for Issey Miyake, the Prada skincare line, cosmetics for YSL and Shiseido, products for Sony in 1998, and Giorgio Armani shops in 1999.The first restaurant I designed was for Morimoto, the Iron Chef, in 2001 (Philadelphia) which fortunately won many awards. Being a successful restaurant interior designer afforded me many more interior projects including the Semiramis hotel in Athens. It was my first hotel, and I designed every aspect from the architecture to the flatware, from the menus in the restaurant to the staff’s uniforms. Since then I have designed thousands of objects and about 50 interiors.This moment as I answer your questions I am working in 30 countries on about 50 projects and I feel like I am just starting. There is about 100 million dollars of my work sold yearly by about 200 companies globally. I think that I design objects that people love and want—not objects that are about design for design’s sake or insular design that is unfriendly and not coherent with people’s behaviors and sensibilities.2. How significant are the topics of cool hunting and trend spotting in the world of writing or design?I think what Trend Hunter does is necessary to expose the world to the ‘new[...]

30 Healthy Cholesterol Tips


1. Find more ways to walk. Can you walk to the store for milk? Park farther away? Take the stairs? If you can move more, DO! Physical activity is vital to heart health. 2. Eat six or more small meals a day. A large study of British adults found that people who ate six or more times a day had lower cholesterol than those who ate twice a day, even though the "grazers" got more calories and fat! 3. Fix all your sandwiches on whole grain bread. Eating more complex carbs, like whole grain bread and brown rice, can increase HDL levels slightly and significantly lower triglycerides, another type of blood fat that contributes to heart disease. 4. Say cheese! Women who ate a serving a day (about the size of four dice) had higher HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad) than those who ate less, according to a study at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 5. No laughing matter. A recent study showed that diabetes patients who watched funny sitcoms for 30 minutes, along with their standard meds, reduced their heart risk substantially: They had about a 26 percent increase in HDL ("good" cholesterol), compared with a bump of just 3 percent among patients in the control group. 6. Brew it better. If you're worried about cholesterol, stick to paper-filtered and instant coffees. Unfiltered coffees, which are typically made with a French press, contain more of a cholesterol-raising substance called cafestol. 7. Make the move to nonfat milk. If you drink whole milk, switch to 2 percent. If you already drink 2 percent, move to 1 percent. If you drink 1 percent, you're ready for nonfat. 8. Start with soup. Studies show that folks who begin their meals with soup end up eating fewer calories by the end of the day without feeling hungrier. Give it a try with a broth-based soup.9. Bag some barley. Thanks to its impressive stash of soluble fiber, which slows the digestion of food and the rise of blood sugar, barley is much friendlier to blood sugar than rice for most people. And it lowers cholesterol to boot. 10. Start three days this week with oatmeal, a proven cholesterol-reducer. Use the old-fashioned or quick-cooking kind, not instant.11. Sip a cup of black tea every four hours. Government scientists found that three weeks of drinking five cups a day of black tea reduced cholesterol levels in people with mildly high levels. 12. Berry good news. Adults who ate about a cup of berries a day lowered their blood pressure and raised their HDL (good) cholesterol after eight weeks, according to a new study from Finland. 13. Pay attention to fiber. Studies find that eating 10 to 30 grams of soluble fiber a day -- much more than the average American eats -- reduces LDL about 10 percent. Aim to up your intake slowly though, otherwise you may experience some bloating and flatulence. 14. The use of medication doesn't have to be permanent. If you improve your diet and increase your activity level, you may reduce your cholesterol enough to get off the medication and stay off it!15. Add half a tablespoon of cinnamon to your coffee before starting the pot. A Pakistani study found that 6 grams cinnamon a day (about 1/2 tablespoon) reduced LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes by nearly 30 percent. 16. Try turmeric. Small studies have found that curcumin, a component of turmeric, cuts cholesterol. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan, and toss in a tablespoon of turmeric, a dash of salt, and a generous pinch of black pepper (pepper can increase your uptake of curcumin by up to 2,000 percent). S[...]

Samsung Upbeat about Memory Chip Recovery


Posted by: Moon Ihlwan on October 28A year ago, the global semiconductor industry was fraught with overcapacity. The situation was particularly bad for memory chips. But suddenly the tech industry is facing supply constraintsfor DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips used in computers to hold data while processors run programs and NAND flash chips used in mobile gizmos to store music, photos and data.That’s good news for the tech sector looking for signs of recovery after a yearlong slump. And no other company will benefit more from a semiconductor supply shortage than Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of memory chips. The Korean company’s chip business chief, Kwon Oh Hyun, said Oct. 28 he expected the supply of both DRAM and NAND chips to fall slightly short of demand next year, making chip prices stay firm. Samsung aims to increase its chip revenues to $25.5 billion in 2012 from an estimated $16.6 billion this year, he said.The optimistic outlook stems from confidence that Samsung has widened its gap with rivals during the downturn. Samsung kept investing in upgrading production technologies and equipment while Japanese, American and Taiwanese rivals cut back in spending. Industry analysts say Only Samsung and Hynix Semiconductor, another Korean company, can now produce DRAM chips by printing circuit lines on wafer disks with 50 nanometer technology – a tool increasing productivity by 30% from the previous-generation technology. Samsung is poised to report a sharp rise in profits this year, thanks partly to a turnaround in its chip business.[...]

The Coolest Small Company in America


Why are high-powered M.B.A.'s getting off the fast track to work for a $13-million food company in Ann Arbor?By Bo Burlingham | Jan 1, 2003It's 4:20 on a Wednesday afternoon, and Ari Weinzweig is talking to a group of new employees about the 4 Steps to Selling Great Food. "Anybody know what the first one is?" he asks, holding up a plump, brown, and fragrant loaf of bread from Zingerman's Bakehouse." 'Know it,' " says a young woman with curly blond hair."That's right," says Weinzweig. "Great." And he proceeds to lead the group on a sensory excursion into the properties of slow-rising artisanal bread.The CEO of Zingerman's Community of Businesses (ZCoB), Weinzweig looks like a Jewish hippie version of Ichabod Crane -- tall and gangly, with olive skin, curly black hair, and a fringe of a beard. He wears a ring in one ear and a stud in the other and dresses in black jeans, sandals, white socks, and a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The Chicago native studied Russian history at the University of Michigan and describes himself as a lapsed anarchist.In 1982, Weinzweig founded Zingerman's Delicatessen with Paul Saginaw, who is still his partner. Over the next 10 years, the deli became world famous -- and then hit a wall. Faced with the choice of changing the company or letting it stagnate, the partners came up with an ingenious strategy that has allowed them to retain the best aspects of small-business life while enjoying the benefits and challenges of growth. The result is ZCoB, consisting of seven small businesses in and around Ann Arbor, Mich., with two more in the active-planning stage. Together the businesses do a profitable $13 million a year in sales.One of the businesses is Zingerman's Training Inc., or ZingTrain. Right now it's playing host to the orientation of the new employees, but ZingTrain also offers training and consulting for non-ZCoB companies, which send their people to learn the Zingerman's way of doing business. Earlier in the week bank managers, bakery owners, and restaurateurs from around the Midwest were in Ann Arbor for the "Managing with Zing" seminar. Other sessions have attracted a wide range of organizations -- grocery-store chains, hospitals, garden shops, not-for-profit groups, chocolatiers, custom manufacturers, even a mortuary -- from across the country.It was at one such seminar that Todd Wickstrom first experienced Zingerman's. At the time, Wickstrom owned two franchised bakeries in Chicago that he wanted to improve, and he thought the session might give him new ideas. It did. On his return to Chicago, he sent Weinzweig an E-mail message: "The seminar made me realize you can live your ideals in the food business. The bad news is, I can't do it here." Weinzweig invited him to become a managing partner of the deli, and Wickstrom jumped at the opportunity. He sold his bakeries and moved his family to Ann Arbor. "I would have come in as a dishwasher to be in this environment," he says.The environment is, indeed, ZCoB's most striking feature, combining a strong sense of community, a deep belief in people, a fascination with management and business, and a passion for great food and great service. It's an entrepreneurial environment in which good ideas become real businesses, and employees with good ideas have an opportunity to become owners. More to the point, it's an environment that many can't resist. "Working here has never felt like a job to me," says Wickstrom. "I'm constantly learning about managing, about food, and about myself."Wickstrom isn't the only former entrepreneur to be s[...]

The Heart of a Company


The birth of a seriously ill child set Kenny Kramm on a course from ordinary guy to extraordinary entrepreneur.By Leigh Buchanan | Jun 1, 2003Of all the motivations for launching a business, love and fear may be the most powerful.Kenny Kramm, a slight, gentle-spoken man of almost preternatural calm, is the founder and CEO of $5.7 million FlavorX Inc., a fast-growing company based in Bethesda, Md. But not so long ago, the only thing Kramm wanted to start was a family. By 1992 he was married to his college sweetheart, with a three-year-old daughter and a second child on the way. After a stint on the creative side of advertising had left him feeling dissatisfied and vaguely unclean, Kramm had sought refuge in the family business, a cozy, old-fashioned pharmacy that he expected one day to inherit. There he labored comfortably alongside his parents, working the counter and passing the time of day with the store's mostly elderly clientele, much as he had done growing up.At age 29, Kramm had never so much as toyed with the idea of starting a company. What's more, he possessed a trait incompatible with entrepreneurship: He was perfectly content with his life the way it was. "It wasn't the kind of life you would read about in Inc.," says Kramm. "But it was good."Back then, the only thing troubling Kramm was his unborn child. Though she was now healthy, his first child, Sarah, had been born two months early, blue and not breathing. During her second pregnancy his wife, Shelley, developed toxemia; the couple awaited the new baby's birth with trepidation. On February 6, 1992, Hadley Kramm was born at 28 weeks, weighing 3 pounds, 10 ounces. Still, "she was fine," says Kramm. "She had an Apgar score of 10. We were so relieved. We thought it would be okay."But when she was 10 days old, Hadley -- still in the hospital because of her weight -- stopped eating. Her skin mottled. The Kramms haunted the hospital corridors by day, spending fretful evenings at home with Sarah. They alternately summoned hope and dismissed it as a dangerous luxury. Then "we got the call," says Kramm.Obeying the summons, the Kramms rushed to the hospital. There "the resident led us into the NICU carrying a flashlight because it was the middle of the night," recalls Kramm. "He shined it on Hadley, and her eyes were rolled back in her head." The resident insisted it wasn't a seizure, and so did other residents who attended Kramm's daughter during that long President's Day weekend. "They said it was just 'seizurelike activity,' and it went on for three days. Three days," says Kramm. Finally, on Tuesday, a physician confirmed that yes, Hadley was experiencing seizures and needed immediate treatment. She should have had it days earlier.Kramm believes his daughter's seizures may have resulted from a massive brain hemorrhage caused when she was given asthma medicine by mistake. (The hospital denied responsibility, the Kramms say. They also say they were too exhausted and demoralized to sue.) Whatever the culprit, the damage was extensive and irreparable. Hadley's life would thereafter be defined by a long list of debilitating ailments, the most serious of which were continual seizures, a blood-clotting disorder, and cerebral palsy. She would need help with some of the most basic functions for the rest of her life: She might never live on her own. "When you have a baby you have boundless hopes for them," says Kramm. "All we could do was ask, what is the best we can hope for? Will she be able to walk? Will she talk?"For many families t[...]

Building a Marketing Juggernaut


How did Aquascape's Greg Wittstock--the "Pond Nazi" to his rivals--get so successful so quickly? One key reason: He created an army of loyal customers by teaching them how to make money.By Bo Burlingham | Nov 1, 2003Clyde Wilson, who owns a 14-year-old landscaping business in Bracey, Va., didn't know much about Aquascape Designs Inc. until last January, when his wife insisted he attend a two-day seminar in a nearby city. Her reason was straightforward: She was scared. Their company had lost so much money in 2002 that they'd had to borrow $65,000 to get through the winter. They clearly needed to do something different, and Aquascape, which designs and sells pond-building supplies, was promoting its seminar as a chance for landscapers to learn how to succeed in the pond business. Whether or not pond-building proved to be their salvation, Mrs. Wilson hoped her husband would pick up some profitable ideas.It was on the second day of the seminar that Wilson had his revelation. It came in the form of a simple formula he could use to figure out how long it would take his business to reach the breakeven point in any given year (see "Are You on Track to Break Even?" page 67). As soon as he got home, Wilson and his wife plugged in their numbers and discovered that they would need 540 days to break even in 2003. "Omigod," Wilson thought, "we're going out of business." But the formula also gave him hope--by making him more aware of his gross margins. Clearly, his prices were too low. A $300 lawn-cutting contract, for example, should have been $400; a $50 contract for delivering mulch should have been $150. So he raised his rates, and most customers paid them without complaint. In July, Wilson's wife sent him back to school, this time to attend Aquascape's third annual Pond College in St. Charles, Ill. By then, he'd improved his overall gross margin from 6% to 35% and was on track to break even by August 10. At the Pond College, he lost no time in seeking out Greg Wittstock, Aquascape's 33-year-old founder, owner, and CEO. Wilson just wanted to thank the man. "If I hadn't gone to that seminar," Wilson told Wittstock, "I wouldn't be here today. I'd be out looking for a job."Chances are you're not familiar with the pond industry. You may not even know it exists. But exist it does, with sales of $1.4 billion a year and growing, and its driving force is the company Wittstock started in 1990 when he was still an undergraduate at Ohio State University. Today, Aquascape has 130 employees, 35,000 customers, and $44 million in annual sales. It has been on the Inc. 500 list three times, and its ponds have been installed all over the United States and Canada, as well as in parts of Europe and South America. Most important, it has built an army of loyal customers--mainly independent landscape contractors and pond-supply distributors--who gather every July at a resort near the company's headquarters in Batavia, Ill., to learn, network, and celebrate the joy of ponds. This year's event was a weeklong extravaganza called Pond-erosa--not to be confused with Pondapalooza, the industry trade show that took place two weeks later in Atlanta--and included both the Pond College and the 11th annual Parade of Ponds.Ponds are, in fact, more than a business to the Aquascape crowd. They are a passion and a calling, and no one is more passionate about them than Wittstock, who is also known as the Pond Guy--a name he has trademarked--and who is an intense, athletic, notoriously volatile, utterly inge[...]

The Ultimate Investment Club for Entrepreneurs


At CMS, a highly successful but little-known financial services firm, entrepreneurs help each other find the best places to invest.By Jon Gertner | Dec 1, 2003Mark Solomon is telling a story.It is a night several years ago, he is saying, and he is driving for hours through an unrelenting rainstorm to visit a prospective client for CMS, the Philadelphia financial services company that he founded in the late 1960s. In the car with Solomon are his deputies: Paul Silberberg, CMS's president, and Bill Landman, CMS's chief investment officer. For a firm that represents the likes of Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, this prospective client, a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars, would be a nice fit. He would also be an amazingly nice catch.And yet, there is a problem. The CMS team, soaked from the short walk from the car to this entrepreneur's house, makes a lengthy presentation in the living room. "We look for three things in a client," says Silberberg. "One is a very successful entrepreneur who has built the business. Number two is geographic location--our clients are all within a three-hour plane ride of Philly because we would like to get back for dinner after visiting them, even if it's a late dinner. Third, and probably the most important, is shared values. We look for people whom we like, who are honest, and who are philanthropic. We look for people who really care about more than just creating wealth for themselves and their families, who are trying to use that wealth to help repair the world in some way. And we don't care how--inner city work, save the whales, hug the trees, we just don't care."This entrepreneur, however, was not the saving, hugging, or repairing kind. As Solomon recalls, he said, "'I've read all your material, and it seems you're extremely philanthropic. You need to know I'm not.' And he was proud of this."Solomon decided to give it his best shot. "I was going to take a chance on converting him," he says, and he began to regale this man with personal stories about the joys and virtues of philanthropy. Then he launched into a brief tutorial on the Rule of 72. "He didn't know what it was, so I said, if you take the rate of interest you earn and divide it into 72, it tells you how long it takes for you to double your money." Assuming this entrepreneur could earn a steady rate of 6%, Solomon offered some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, showing that the man would probably be highly placed in the Forbes 400 by the time he was 70. "Do you know how big the hole has to be to bury you and that amount of money?" Solomon asked. "What in God's name are you going to do with it? This guy just looked at me like I was talking in Chinese."Solomon decided to stand up and announce that he just didn't see how this was going to work for either CMS or the entrepreneur. The CMS execs filed out, piled back in the car, and drove for four hours in the rain, doing their best to keep the car from hydroplaning on the Xooded roads home to Philadelphia.Even to most entrepreneurs, CMS is a largely unfamiliar name, a firm few know about and even fewer have joined. CMS doesn't exactly seek anonymity, but its obscurity results from the firm's aversion to the media (this is its first real profile) as well as its focus on only the most select (and successful) entrepreneurs. Technically speaking, CMS views itself as an "alternative investment boutique" or "an entrepreneurs' buyers cooperative." Its offices in Philadelphia, wher[...]

Its not easy being Green


It's Not Easy Being GreenJeffrey Hollender and Alan Newman disagreed about strategy, fought bitterly -- and created two successful companies. They'd set out to change the world, but what they really changed was each other.By Jess McCuan | Nov 1, 2004Jeffrey Hollender was clearly enjoying himself. It was a misty evening in January, and he was the guest of honor at a tony Manhattan party, thrown to mark the release of his new book, What Matters Most. The setting was the "sky terrace" of the Galleria, an exclusive residential tower on the city's Upper East Side. Dashing and handsome in a dark jacket and tie, Hollender moved through the crowd with characteristic ease, stopping every so often to marvel at the glittering views of the Midtown skyline. In What Matters Most, Hollender, 49, tells how he and his company, Seventh Generation, a manufacturer of environmentally friendly household products based in Burlington, Vt., fell in with the likes of Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's, and other civic-minded businesspeople -- entrepreneurs determined to prove that a progressive, values-based company can make a difference. Early reviews were glowing. "Reading this book may help you look at how your company affects the world," noted a Harvard Business School report. An official reviewer for called Seventh Generation a "poster child for corporate conscience." After the party, Hollender began a nationwide speaking tour, with stops at the Haas School at Berkeley and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.But not everyone was impressed. In fact, Alan Newman, the man who had founded Seventh Generation in 1988, was somewhere near irate. A few weeks before the book party, Newman, now CEO of Magic Hat Brewing Co., a craft beer maker in Burlington, sat at the desk in his cluttered office, bearded and barefoot as usual, and composed an e-mail to Hollender:"I've been aware that you've been referring to yourself as the founder of Seventh Generation for some time now. Frankly, [I] have been ignoring it. That part of my life is long over and I am happily onto the next phase. But it is a problem for me when reporters show up to discuss Seventh Generation, which happened recently, and they are surprised that: (a) I clearly was the founder, and (b) you were not around or involved until well after the name change to Seventh Generation, the positioning, the product direction, and (multiple versions of) the first catalog had been produced and mailed." He went on: "While we may always have a different point of view about what happened at the end of our relationship, the founding of the company is a matter of record and not subject to 'personal perspectives.' I only hope you do not take this opportunity to present yourself as being the founder of Seventh Generation....It just isn't so and can only lead to embarrassment for both of us."Hollender responded immediately, changing passages in his book and editing Seventh Generation's marketing and press materials. But that did little to ease tensions that had been simmering for years. Newman had been one of the original wave of radical Vermont entrepreneurs (see "What Is It About Vermont?" page 116), a dreamer who went into business less to make money than to change the world. Seventh Generation was his baby, and he had infused it with all his hippy sensibilities. Hollender, a New York City businessman who had founded two previous ventures, joined [...]

Lucky Junki


He has 20 thriving companies, a fourth-degree black belt, and a plan -- always a plan. Which is why this former Japanese gang leader is a teriyaki-sauce-making global-logistics magnate. Only Junki Yoshida; only in America.By John Brant | Oct 1, 2004It's not a question of if Junki Yoshida will seize control of the room, but when, and in what guise and key. Will he play the manic, English-mangling, teriyaki-sauce-hawking clown or the ambassador-smooth tycoon responsible for keeping Nike factories around the world supplied with shoe boxes and air soles? Flaunt himself as a Franklinesque self-made American entrepreneur or betray the ghost of a lonely Japanese teenager? Display the traits of his merchant mother or of his artist father? Provoke laughter or command homage?The room in play is the test kitchen of Sur la Table, an upscale cookware store in the Pearl District of Portland, Oreg. Yoshida sits quietly in a corner, cradling his cell phone in one hand and running the other over his weary eyes.The past few weeks have been hectic even by Yoshida's frenetic standards. During a whirlwind 10 days in Japan, China, and Korea, he visited factories that produce his lines of outdoor clothing and sporting goods, and called on shipping companies and airlines upon which his logistics and supply-chain management firms depend. Returning to the U.S., Yoshida touched down briefly at his home near Portland, then flew to Minneapolis, where he received an award from a national community college foundation. He then journeyed to Las Vegas to celebrate his wife's birthday, and to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to deliver a speech to a food-packing association. Finally he returned to Portland, where he presided over the opening of a restaurant he purchased across the road from his home in suburban Troutdale.Now he sits at Sur la Table, a block away from the art gallery and wine bar he owns with his wife and daughter, waiting to tape segments of his TV spot, "Cooking with Junki," which airs twice a week on a local station. The spot pushes Japanese cuisine in general and, in particular, the Mr. Yoshida's line of sauces that forms the public face and emotional base of Junki Yoshida's 20-company international conglomerate."I tired," he growls, his voice barely above a whisper.The other people in the room -- Yoshida's assistants, the cameraman and producer, and the local TV weatherman who co-hosts the spot -- prick up their ears, waiting to be entertained, enlightened, issued orders, or, as is most often the case with the 54-year-old Yoshida, a combination of all three."I tiiiiired!" Yoshida repeats, the growl growing both louder and more playful. He yawns fiercely and rolls his shoulders like a boxer preparing to answer the bell; the cell phone dangles from his fingers. Finally he slaps his knees, squares his shoulders, and rises. By the time he reaches the side of his co-host, Dave Salesky, Yoshida is all glint and holler."Hey, in Vegas, I win that horserace, that Kentucky Fried Derby!" he tells Salesky, a tall, fair-haired man whose folksy, small-market charm serves as a perfect foil for Yoshida's intensity. "I put down 100 dollar on that Pennsylvania horse and win 800 dollar! I a rich man!"Hoo-hah, Junki, you're a card! Kentucky Fried Derby! Eight hundred bucks! Now you can give everyone a raise!Now Yoshida is rolling. He slips into costume -- this week it's an apron, a white chef's jacket, and an Asian peasan[...]